Can VPN reduce data usage? How to minimize VPN data usage

Elena Constantinescu
by Elena Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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  • A VPN offers numerous advantages, like hiding your IP address, changing your location, and unblocking streaming services. But many users wonder if a VPN can reduce data usage.
  • Discover 7 easy solutions to minimize data usage over VPN. Find out the best VPN that can help you improve Internet speed and lower data consumption.
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how to reduce VPN data usage

VPNs are incredibly popular on the Internet, thanks to the numerous advantages they bring. But a lot of users are wondering if a VPN can reduce data usage. We’re here to clarify.

Can VPN reduce data usage?

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No, a VPN can’t reduce data usage.

In fact, a VPN uses more data than normal. Because a VPN encrypts your network traffic, it results in higher overhead.

In turn, the secure tunnel requires more processing power to successfully transmit data packets. The higher the encryption level, the more data it will use.

What about obfuscated VPN servers?

obfuscation mode

No, you can’t use obfuscated VPN servers to reduce data usage either.

Although obfuscation mode hides your VPN traffic and makes it look like HTTPS traffic, it can’t hide the amount of used data.

Your ISP can still see the information quantity you use, making it impossible to reduce data usage with a VPN.

Can VPN bypass throttling and capping?

Yes, you can use a VPN to bypass throttling if your ISP limits your bandwidth speed based on specific activities like streaming or torrenting.

However, you can’t use a VPN to bypass data capping because that would mean using the VPN to hide or reduce your data usage. As we previously established, it isn’t possible.

How to reduce VPN data usage

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Don’t keep your VPN on at all times

on button

If your Internet subscription plan is limited, turn off your VPN when you’re not using it. Certain processes like web browsers continue using the Internet in the background.

Slowly but surely, you will run out of network traffic even if you don’t use your computer, smartphone, or tablet online.

On Windows, a lot of VPN desktop clients are configured to automatically run at system startup by default. To reduce data usage caused by VPN, make sure to find and disable the autorun setting.

Enable VPN split tunneling

split tunneling in Private Internet Access

Split tunneling is a special VPN feature that isolates VPN traffic from the public Internet. If you use a VPN for a specific task only, like watching Netflix in a web browser, then split-tunneling mode can help you reduce VPN data usage.

Many VPN clients have an integrated split-tunneling setting, including Private Internet Access, CyberGhost VPN, and Surfshark.

Connect to the nearest VPN server

connect to the auto server in Private Internet Access

When you connect to a VPN server, your data passes through several checkpoints before it reaches its destination. The further the VPN server, the more data it uses.

Most premium VPNs show a recommended VPN server based on your current location. Or, if you must connect to a VPN server from another country, make sure to pick the closest city to you.

For example, Private Internet Access shows the latency of each VPN server relative to your current position. You just have to connect to the server with the lowest latency, which is always shown in the first position.

Use the private DNS servers of the VPN provider

DNS is responsible for translating domain names into IP addresses. However, each DNS provider has a unique mode of operation. And your DNS servers are assigned by your ISP.

If the DNS servers are slow, this can lead to a higher amount of data usage, especially when connected to the VPN.

But you can fix this problem by switching to the exclusive DNS servers supported by the VPN provider. If they don’t exist, then you should change your DNS servers to Cloudflare, Google Public DNS or OpenDNS.

Select a VPN protocol with lower security

PPTP protocol

The VPN protocol determines how your data travels on the Internet, what encryption and authentication mode it uses, and so on.

If you opt for a super-secure VPN protocol like SSTP, you will notice a connection slowdown. Also, your Internet data will be quickly used up.

But you can switch to a less secure VPN protocol like PPTP or L2TP. We strongly discourage this, however, since a VPN’s top priority should be security and privacy. You should always use OpenVPN.

Optimize more VPN settings

configure PIA connection settings

Each VPN client has its own particularities, so it’s impossible to give you an exact recipe of what VPN settings you should enable or disable in order to optimize data usage over VPN.

For instance, Private Internet Access gives you the possibility to disable data encryption when using the OpenVPN protocol.

On the other hand, ExpressVPN has a special feature that optimizes the Windows network settings to improve VPN speed.

Don’t hesitate to fire up the options panel of your VPN client and look under its hood for settings that would help improve the Internet connection speed and reduce data usage over VPN.

Avoid using free VPNs

Free VPNs can’t be compared to premium products when it comes to online privacy, security, and even Internet speed. Besides, you can’t trust a free VPN with your data.

However, you can trust a premium VPN with a zero-logging policy, such as Private Internet Access. We used it in our examples above precisely because it’s the best VPN overall.

Owned by Kape Technologies, PIA can connect you to the nearest VPN server to grant you the best possible Internet speed. You can even temporarily disable VPN encryption if you want to minimize data usage.

The app is compatible with all major devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and routers. It supports split tunneling and allows 10 simultaneous device connections.

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To recap, you can’t use a VPN to reduce data usage because a VPN can’t hide the amount of network traffic from your ISP. Instead, a VPN can help you bypass throttling.

Furthermore, you can use the solutions we provided above to reduce data usage over VPN. Just keep in mind that you need a reliable VPN like PIA to get the best possible results.

FAQ: Learn more about VPN and data usage

  • Which VPN uses least data?

It’s impossible to compare all VPNs and determine which one uses the least data. But we suggest using PIA because it comes with some practical settings for minimal data usage.

  • Does VPN work on cellular data?

Yes, a VPN works on cellular data. If you have VPN issues over 3G, make sure to diagnose and fix the problem.

  • Should I leave VPN on all the time?

If you have an unlimited Internet data plan, it’s a good idea to leave the VPN on all the time to ensure your continuous privacy and security.